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Higher Childhood Peer Reports of Social Preference Mediates the Impact of the Good Behavior Game on Suicide Attempt

Abstract

The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a universal classroom-based preventive intervention directed at reducing early aggressive, disruptive behavior and improving children’s social adaptation into the classroom. The GBG is one of the few universal preventive interventions delivered in early elementary school that has been shown to reduce the risk for future suicide attempts. This paper addresses one potential mechanism by which the GBG lowers the risk of later suicide attempt. In this study, we tested whether the GBG, by facilitating social adaptation into the classroom early on, including the level of social preference by classmates, thereby lowers future risk of suicide attempts. The measure of social adaptation is based on first and second grade peer reports of social preference (“which children do you like best?”; “which children don’t you like?”). As part of the hypothesized meditational model, we examined the longitudinal association between childhood peer social preference and the risk of future suicide attempt, which has not previously been examined. Data were from an epidemiologically based randomized prevention trial, which tested the GBG among two consecutive cohorts of first grade children in 19 public schools and 41 classrooms. Results indicated that peer social preference partially mediated the relationship between the GBG and the associated reduction of risk for later suicide attempts by adulthood, specifically among children characterized by their first grade teacher as highly aggressive, disruptive. These results suggest that positive childhood peer relations may partially explain the GBG-associated reduction of risk for suicide attempts and may be an important and malleable protective factor for future suicide attempt.

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Acknowledgments

Funding sources during the last 30 or more years for this research has been supported by NIMH Grants R01 MH 42968, P50 MH 38725, R01 MH 40859, R21 MH 090480, and T32 MH018834 (with supplements from NIDA for each of the cited research grants), and NIDA grants R01 DA 019984, DA009897, and P30 DA027828.

Acknowledgments for PRC cohorts 1 and 2

This research has been supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants NIMH 5 PO MH38725, Epidemiologic Prevention Center for Early Risk Behaviors, Sheppard G. Kellam, P.I.; MH42968, Periodic Outcome of Two Preventive Trials, Sheppard G. Kellam, P.I.; R01 MH 40859, Development & Malleability from Childhood to Adulthood, MH42968-06A2 Sheppard G. Kellam, P.I.; and National Institute of Drug Abuse awards RO1 DA09592, Transitions to Adulthood, James C. Anthony, P.I.; and DA009897, Risks for Transitions in Drug Use in Urban Adults, William W. Eaton, P.I. Other principal collaborators include Lisa Werthamer, Hendricks Brown, Lawrence Dolan, Jeanne Poduska, and Nicholas Ialongo. This work would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of the Baltimore City Public Schools, and the parents, children, teachers, principals and school psychologists/social workers who participated.

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None of the authors have conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Holly C. Wilcox.

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Newcomer, A.R., Roth, K.B., Kellam, S.G. et al. Higher Childhood Peer Reports of Social Preference Mediates the Impact of the Good Behavior Game on Suicide Attempt. Prev Sci 17, 145–156 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-015-0593-4

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Keywords

  • Suicide attempt
  • Good behavior game
  • Peer relations
  • Developmental epidemiology
  • Universal prevention programs